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96T2 i 

AUGUST 1955 


The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in western 
Asia is one of nine sovereign Arab States with 
which the United States has direct relations. 1 
Geographically it occupies a central position in 
that vast area from the Mediterranean to the 
Arabian Sea known as the Middle East — the se- 
curity of which is important to the interests of 
the free world and the United States. 

Jordan, completely independent since 1948, is 
about the size of Indiana. Most of its more than 
one million inhabitants are Arab-speaking Mos- 
lems, but there is a long-established Christian 
minority among them. 

The Government is a constitutional monarchy 
with an appointed Senate and elected House of 
Deputies. Young King Hussein, the present head 
of state, is the grandson of modern Jordan's first 
monarch, King Abdullah, who was assassinated 4 
years ago while emerging from prayer in a 
Jerusalem mosque. 

The greater part of the country stretches east 
and south from the Jordan River Valley in a wide 
V, taking in the entire former British Mandate 
of Transjordan. West of the Jordan River, the 
Kingdom encompasses a significant portion of the 
Holy Land. Under control of Jordan, but desig- 

1 Tlie others are Egyiit. Iraq, I^ebanon, Libya, Muscat 
and Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen. There is no 
exchange of missions with Muscat, but treaty relations 
have existed since 1833. 

nated by resolution of the United Nations for 
internationalization, is a portion of Jerusalem and 
its environs, including all of the Old City and 
Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. 

This land with its rich tradition has for cen- 
turies provided an important link in the trade 
between the East and the West. Other ties with 
Europe go back to the spread of Christianity. 
Formerly a part of the Ottoman Empire (1516- 
1918), the country made substantial progress 
toward independence and modernization with 
British help. 

Jordan is bounded on the north by Syria, on 
the east and south by Iraq and Saudi Arabia — all 
Arab countries and members of the Arab League, 
together with Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, 
and Yemen. On the west Jordan is bounded by 
Israel, still unrecognized by any of the Arab 

The exact location of the Jordan-Israel border 
has not been finally determined. The present 
demarcation line, approximately 350 miles long, 
was established by the Armistice Agreement of 
1949. There has been no permanent settlement 
between Arab and Israeli forces since the partition 
of Palestine, and this demarcation line remains 
sealed against virtually all traffic. For over 5 
years there has been an armistice, but there has 
been no trade, no transit of goods, no diplomatic 
exchange with Israel. Continual border disputes 

3)8489 0—55 

and other difficulties complicate Jordan's present 
position — just as they threaten the security and 
progress of the area as a whole. 


Poverty is widespread among the peoples of the 
Middle East. The United States would like to 
see them achieve the greatest degree of political 
and economic self -development. In addition, 
free-world security is the sum of the political and 
economic health of the free nations — including 
the entire key area of the Middle East, 

The unresolved internal quarrel between the 
Arab countries and Israel is weakening the area 
to the detriment of the security of the free world. 
This is among the chief reasons why the United 
States hopes for a definitive and just peace be- 
tween the parties. 

In the development of our relations with the 
newly independent nations in this part of the 
world, we have pursued, and will continue to 
pursue, a policy of impartial friendship. We are 
deeply cognizant of the great intellectual and 
spiritual debt which Western civilization owes to 
western Asia. 

More specifically our basic objectives are to 
promote and encourage: 

Peace among the states themselves. 

Better understanding between the Arab world 
and the Western nations. 

Government stability, maintenance of law and 
order, and a general rise in living standards. 

Growth of democracy, not necessarily in our 
own pattern, but in a form which recognizes the 
same basic principle of individual freedom. 

Regional defense measures against aggression. 

Many problems besetting the new Hashemite 
Kingdom of Jordan are the result of the Pales- 
tinian conflict. Open warfare broke out between 
the Arabs and Israelis on May 15, 1948, immedi- 
ately following the termination of the British 
Mandate over Palestine. The United Nations had 
announced a plan for the partition of the country 
into separate Arab and Jewish states. Jerusalem 
and its environs were slated for territorial inter- 

Many Zionist groups wanted still more terri- 
tory than the plan proposed. Others of Jewish 
faith, both in and out of Palestine, voiced objec- 
tions to partition on the grounds that it was not 

necessary to achieve independence as a separate 
political unit in order to preserve identities that 
are essentially spiritual. However, most Zionist 
leaders acquiesced in the plan because it gave 
them the long-sought opportunity of founding a 
nation in the area. The Arabs, on the other hand, 
were unanimous in their opposition; they re- 
garded the establishment of Israel as a threat to 
the territorial integrity of land that had been 
inhabited predominantly by Arabs for over a 
thousand years. 

As the deadline for the expiration of the man- 
date drew near, the British prepared to withdraw 
their forces. Tensions between the two groups 
continued to mount. Israel proclaimed its inde- 
pendence on May 14, 1948, and within a few hours 
units of the Arab Legion together with other Arab 
forces engaged Israeli troops at many points along 
the U. N.'s proposed border and in Jerusalem. 

The United Nations took action to halt the 
conflict but months of patient negotiation were 
necessary to work out mutually acceptable armi- 
stice terms. Jordan became the third Arab State 
to sign an armistice with Israel, following Egypt 
and Lebanon and preceding Syria. These agree- 
ments, which are still in effect, halted the organ- 
ized fighting. Among other things the agreements 
provided armistice lines drawn for the most part 
to separate territory held by the opposing armies, 
and they set up the U. N. Mixed Armistice Com- 
missions to see that the terms of the armistice 
were kept. 

The task of resolving the larger issues that 
partition and war left in their wake was assigned 
to the U. N. Palestine Conciliation Commission. 
Despite 5 years of effort, this group has been un- 
able to suggest a formula for a lasting peace 
agreeable to both sides. Consequently, there re- 
main unsettled such serious questions as the future 
of almost 900,000 Arabs — about half of whom 
are now in Jordan — who left their homes in 
Israel during the fighting, the establishment of 
friendly relations and the resumption of trade, the 
status of Jerusalem, as well as the location of 
permanent boundary lines. 


Although there are other Palestinian refugees 
in Lebanon, in Syria, and along the Egyptian- 
controlled Gaza Strip on the Mediterranean coast, 
nowhere is the problem quite so acute as it is in 


.Jordan. The plight of many of these unfortunate 
people was described by Secretary of State Dulles 
when he visited the area in 1953 : 

". . . They mostly exist in makeshift camps, with 
few facilities either for health, work, or recreation. 
Within these camps the inmates rot away, spiritu- 
ally and physically. Even the Grim Reaper offers 
no solution, for as the older die, infants are born 
to inherit their parents' bitter fate." 

In addition, like other nations in the Middle 
East, Jordan itself has inherited a legacy of severe 
economic and social problems. It has few means 
by which to raise the living standards of its 
people. Many are without schooling and medical 
care. In some countries where oil is adding to 
national wealth, great strides for economic bet- 
terment are possible. In Jordan, however, there 
is a dearth of natural resources, including a 
scarcity of life-giving water itself. 

Moreover, the nation has been faced with the 
hard task of uniting two distinct geographical 
sections under a single rule. When the territories 
now constituting Jordan passed under the protec- 
tion of Great Britain at the end of the First World 
War, Transjordan — the country across the river — 
was put under the leadership of Abdullah, a 
Hashemite prince from the Arabian Hejaz. After 
the portions west of the Jordan River and Dead 

Sea were united with Transjordan, the entire area 
became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and 
in 1949 was recognized as such by the United 

The territory of Jordan totals about 36,715 
square miles. Nearly five-sixths of the land lies 
east of the Jordan River. A fertile strip 30 miles 
wide at the Syrian border runs south, tapering 
off into arid wastes before reaching the Saudi 
Arabian frontier. Barren hills, mountains, and 
vast unpopulated desert areas make up the re- 
mainder of the area east of the Jordan. West 
of the river are some 2,165 square miles formerly 
included in the Palestinian Mandate. 

The People 

The strong nationalistic feeling which has 
played so large a part in shaping the modern 
Middle East has a distinctive Arab flavor in the 
Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The people think 
of themselves as belonging to an Arab nation 
transcending boundaries. They call their small, 
British-trained army the Arab Legion. They 
continue to identify many of their aims and as- 
pirations with those of other Arab peoples. Thus 
the complexion of the Kingdom results from a 
series of political events, rather than from an 
attempt to carve a national boundary around a 
particular ethnic group. 


The East Bank Jordanians are largely de- 
scended from Arabian Bedouin tribes. The Pales- 
tinians, on the West Bank, are of mixed origin, 
stemming from heterogeneous groups that settled 
in and about the Jordan Valley countless genera- 
tions ago. 

No systematic attempt has been made to take 
an accurate census of the region since the time of 
Augustus Caesar. General estimates place the 
population of Jordan at around 1,372,000. Again 
in round numbers, 400,000 are former Trans- 
jordanians, most of whom still live on the East 
Bank; another 400,000 are West Bank residents 
who became Jordanians with the annexation of 
that part of the country; and 100,000 are refugees 
from Israel who have established themselves in 
Jordan and are supporting themselves. The re- 
maining 472,000 are other Arab Palestinians who 
lost their homes in Israel as a result of the conflict 
in Palestine and are still classed by the United 
Nations as refugees in need of international 

Excluding the refugees, the greater portion of 
the people— about 450,000— live in towns; 385,000 
are settled villagers, and 65,000 are nomadic. 
Most of the entire population is dependent on 
agriculture for a living. 

Capita] of the Hashemite Kingdom and largest 
city on the East Bank is Amman, grown in the 
last 10 years from a modest village to a city of 
approximately 100,000 people. The old portion 
of Amman, the ancient Greek city of Philadel- 
phia and before that the stronghold of the biblical 
Ammonites, includes a "suq" or open-stalled 
Oriental bazaar. In the new part Amman has 
a department store, the King's palaces, a number 
of Government buildings, and many streets of 
modern homes. 

Irbid, As Salt, Al Karak, and At Tafilah, towns 
of some 20,000 to 50,000 people, are also situated 
on the East Bank, as are Ma'an, southern terminus 
of the country's main rail line, and Petra, "the 
rose red city'' of solid rock, once an important 
caravan trading station. Al'Aqabah, situated on 
an arm of the Red Sea, is the country's only port. 
West Bank cities include: 

. . . Hebron (about 25,000), which contains 
shrines of both Moslems and Jews, where David 
lived and where Abraham is said to have estab- 
lished his family tomb. 

. . . Bethlehem, where Christian pilgrims come 

by thousands to worship at the Church of the 

. . . Jerusalem, Holy City of Star, Cross, and 

Crescent, known to the Arabs as Al Quds. 

. . . Nabulus, capital of Samaria, now a center 

of Arab nationalism. 

. . . Tul Karm, near the Israel border. 

. . . Jericho, moon god city captured by Joshua 

from the Canaanites. 

Jerusalem, with a population of perhaps 100,000 
in its Arab sector, and Bethlehem are in a zone 
slated by United Nations resolution for interna- 

The overwhelming majority of the people in 
Jordan are Moslems. Islam is the state religion 
and Arabic the national language. 

Less than a tenth are Christians (including 
29,000 of the refugees). These Christians have 
lived for generations in close association with the 
holy places or in other centers where the Christian 
hold was strong, first under Byzantium and later 
through the Crusades. The Christians are mostly 
Arabs of the Eastern Orthodox faiths, although 
there are Roman Catholics and Anglicans among 
them. The way of life of the Christian Bedouins, 
of whom there are a few, is scarcely distinguish- 
able from that of Moslem nomads. 

Most of the Jews living on the West Bank prior 
to partition have gone to Israel. There is a small 
group of Samaritans, numbering no more than 
300 today, whose ritual is based on early Hebraic 
tradition but who split with Judaism before the 
birth of Christ. 

Another important minority is composed of 
Circassian Moslems whose ancestors emigrated 
from the Russian Caucasus nearly a century ago. 

The Land 

Throughout the hilly part of the country the 
climate is generally Mediterranean, except that 
the summers are not quite so hot and the winters 
are cooler. Snow is not unusual in the higher 
altitudes. The West Bank has a better rainfall 
than the East. In the lower Jordan Valley, as 
in the outlying desert regions, rainfall is slight 
and summer heat intense. 

The Jordan River which gives the country its 
name, together with the Yarniuk River tributary, 
is the principal stream. Although small as rivers 
go, the potential of the Jordan- Yarmuk as the 


country's only source for much-needed irrigation 
and hydroelectric power gives it an importance 
far beyond its size. 

Agriculture and Trade 

About 80 percent of the arable land of Jordan 
is under cultivation. The East Bank's fertile 

strip, having suffered little from erosion and over- 
cropping, is in good condition. The West Bank, 
in contrast, is a severely denuded region. Yet 
the people living there, driven by desperation to 
make their stony soil productive, are careful 
farmers, and some excellent samples of terraced 
agriculture may be observed in that section. 
In some cases the truce line cuts Arab villages 

13829 5-55 

off from lands once tilled by hard-working farm- 
ers, forcing them into an existence of idleness and 
semistarvation. Subsistence farmers on the East 
Bank have been driven further into poverty by 
the inflated prices resulting first from war 
and then from the increase and dislocation of 

Jordan's chief crops are wheat, barley, millet, 
maize, and sesame; beans, tobacco, and animal 
fodder; figs, grapes, and olives. A small oasis 
around Jericho is known for its citrus groves. 
Fresh fruits and vegetables are the only steady 
export, most of them going to Syria, Iraq, and 
Lebanon. Raw wool is exported only when the 
world price is high. 

Today cereal imports are required for Jordan 
unless crop yields are especially abundant. Cot- 
ton piece goods, sugar, and coffee also figure 
among the imports, the total value of which far 
exceeds that of the exports. 

In the days of the mandate most of Jordan's 

exports and imports went through the port of 
Haifa, less than 50 miles from the northwest 
border. Today the costs of transportation have 
risen, since most of the goods must now be moved 
farther over land — mainly through Beirut. 

The main railroad extends some 280 miles 
through central Jordan, linking Ma'an in the 
south with the Syrian capital of Damascus. 
Originally constructed by the world Moslem com- 
munity to connect Mecca and Medina with the 
rest of the Islamic world, it was partially de- 
stroyed during the campaigns of Lawrence of 
Arabia in the First World War, and the part 
below Ma'an was never rebuilt. 

British administration gave the country some 
1,400 miles of hardtop roads, and the Jordanian 
road network is well maintained and being ex- 
panded with assistance from the United States 
and the United Kingdom. 

Oil lines passing from Iraq to the coast provide 

In the valley of the Jordan where the river flows past barren tableland on its way to the Dead Sea. The adoption of 
a unified plan for the development of the Jordan-Yarmuk system would lead to maximum use of the area's limited 
water resources. 

Arab refugee women and children lining up to receive food in a camp near Hebron where about 6,000 refugees are now 
living. Many of these people are given temporary care through the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, but a permanent 
solution to their plight is one of the unsolved problems of the area. 

the country with a transit fee and offer some em- 
ployment at pumping stations. 

Prospects for intensive agricultural develop- 
ment in the Jordan Valley, using waters of the 
Jordan and Yarmuk for irrigation, are bright; 
but an agreed division of the waters between 
Israel and the Arab States, must precede the full 

development of this great natural resource. The 
soil and the climate are good; all that is lacking 
is water and the economic means to bring it to 
the land. 

Next to farming and herding, the tourist trade 
holds promise of becoming one of Jordan's most 
productive activities. Already the country at- 


tracts thousands of foreign visitors each year. 
However, the individual tourist is permitted to 
travel in only one direction between Israel and the 
shrines of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, with a few 
exceptions, during the Christmas and Easter 
seasons, and this restriction has kept down the 
number of potential foreign tourists. 

Jordan has two airfields, at Amman and at 
Jerusalem, and local service is available between 
cities in the area. However, international air 
travel in the region is hampered by national regu- 
lations which prevent planes from or to Arab 
States from using airspace over Israel and which 
forbid planes previously touching ground in 
Israel to land in Arab States. 

Jordan's chief economic and social problem is 
unemployment, which is due, in large measure, 
to its lack of resources. Aside from the refugee 
population, there are many people out of work. 
Before the Palestine conflict, many Jordanians, 
particularly Arabs from Jerusalem, used to find 
work in Haifa and other Mediterranean ports. 

The country has neither coal deposits nor oil 
and, as far as has been determined, no workable 
metals. The Dead Sea contains potash and bro- 
mine; phosphates are worked at Rosaifa, and an- 
other deposit has been located near the rail line 
at Hasa. Processing and transportation difficul- 
ties, however, are at present hindering the export 
of these chemicals. 

The oovernment 

Head of the Government of Jordan is the King. 
Principal authority is vested by the constitution 
in a National Assembly consisting of a Chamber 
of Deputies of 40 members elected by the people 
and a Senate, also of 40 members, appointed by 
the King. Executive responsibilities are dis- 
charged by the Prime Minister, whom the King 
appoints to head a Council answering to the 
National Assembly. 

Jordan has no political parties in the usual 
sense. In the last election, in October 1954, can- 
didates supporting the Government's program 
won a majority of the seats in the Chamber. 
There is a scattered representation of minority 
groups, one of which is the Communist "National 
Front," which won two seats in the last election. 

There is little danger of a direct Communist 
takeover in Jordan. However, when a Com- 
munist-controlled minority unites with extreme 

nationalist groups, it is able to play upon the 
dissatisfaction and unrest existing within the 
country and so delay constructive solutions for 
Jordan's many problems. 

It is interesting to note that Jordan's applica- 
tion for membership in the United Nations has 
thrice been vetoed by the U. S. S. R. 


Jordan's strongest ties abroad are with Great 
Britain and with the Arab League. 

Under the mandate the country was in large 
part dependent upon British support. And it is 
British support today that helps sustain much 
of Jordan's economy. 

Jordan's army, the small but well-equipped 
Arab Legion, is maintained by British subsidy 
under the command of a British-born general. 
A military alliance with Great Britain provides 
for mutual assistance in the event of war or the 
threat of war. Great Britain also maintains air 
units in the country and has full privileges of 

The United States, Great Britain, and France 
joined in a declaration of May 25, 1950, affirming 
their ' unalterable opposition to force or threat 
of force'' by any of the states in the area, or any 
attempt to violate frontiers or the armistice lines 
laid down by the 1949 armistice agreements be- 
tween Israel and the Arab States. 

In his lifetime Jordan's first King, Emir Ab- 
dullah, worked for closer relationships among the 
several Arab States, particularly among those 
countries forming what has been termed the 
Fertile Crescent. This area, stretching from the 
head of the Persian Gulf up through Iraq's 
Tigris- Euphrates Valley to the Mediterranean 
coast of Syria and Lebanon, takes in Jordan's 
fertile strip in its final swing. 

While it was usually possible for Abdullah to 
work closely with his relatives in Iraq, his plans 
were resented in republican Syria and Lebanon. 
In addition, the Sauds, who had driven the 
Hashemites out of Arabia when the kingdom of 
Saudi Arabia was consolidated in 1924, feared a 
resurgence of Hashemite power in the area. 

Egypt, the largest and most powerful member 
of the Arab League, maintains close relations with 
Saudi Arabia. Like the latter, it has pursued 
foreign policies which have operated to discourage 


the growth of competing Arab power to the north. 

Such conflicts of national interests within the 
Arab League have created problems in the realiza- 
tion of united action on matters relating to stabil- 
ity and defense of the area as a whole. 

Abdullah, however, foresaw that Jordan alone 
could not be a viable state. He not only sought to 
strengthen economic ties with his Arab neighbors, 
but he looked forward to establishing peaceful 
relations with Israel. His moves in this direction 
aroused great resentment, especially among the 
embittered Arab refugees. Abdullah was assas- 
sinated in 1951. The country rallied from the 
blow and today both the East and West Banks 
are united in their support of the Crown. 


In 195:2 Jordan set up a special governmental 
board to plan and supervise programs for its eco- 
nomic development. These programs depend 
heavily on foreign assistance. The most substan- 
tial help continues to come from Great Britain in 
the form of interest-free loans, grants, and mili- 
tary subsidies. United States aid for the fiscal 
years 1951 through 1955 slightly exceeded $26 
million, of which $13 million was for development 
projects, about $11 million for technical assist- 
ance, and over $2 million in the form of wheat 
for famine relief. The United Nations refugee 

A general view of Amman, the capital of Jordan. In the foreground, a refugee family has set up its tent. Legend 
Ms it that on the hill at distant right David's captain, Urriah, the Hittite, met his death fighting against the Ammonites, 

program, to which the United States is the larg- 
est contributor, involves expenditure for food, 
shelter, health, and education of some $15 million 
annually. The American Ford Foundation and 
other private sources have made limited donations, 
principally to aid in the much-needed extension 
and improvement of the school system. There 
are also several well-established religious charita- 

ble organizations, including the National Catholic 
Welfare Conference and the Lutherans. 

The economic needs of the country call for 
projects which create work as well as serve long- 
range development plans. Consequently, the De- 
velopment Board has undertaken such work as 
the extension of roads, modernization of existing 
irrigation systems, reforestation, sanitary projects 

Small quantities of water are drawn to the surface by means of this crude wooden, icindlass. It is probably 
the only watering place for miles around in this arid stretch of Jordan. 

in overcrowded settlements, improvement of port 
facilities at Al'Aqabah, and establishment of 
model farms and agricultural research centers. 
Further plans of the board call for loans to rebuild 
destitute frontier villages, to expand activities of 
various cooperative societies, and to stimulate 
local crafts and industries in the Arab sector of 

United States technical assistance experts work 
closely with the Development Board on these and 
other projects — in the fields of health, education, 
water conservation, and the tourist trade. 

From the first the Jordan Government has 
shown a willingness to accept the refugees as 
brothers, granting them citizenship and cooper- 
ating in plans for their rehabilitation. While 
many cling passionately to claims for repatriation, 
experienced observers have said that most of the 
refugees would actually prefer to stay in Jordan 
provided they could have adequate compensation 
for abandoned lands and property and aid in get- 
ting a fresh start. However, until more arable 
land can be made available, it is doubtful if 
Jordan can absorb these refugees. Jordan's great 
hope lies in irrigation development from the 
Jordan and Yarmuk Rivers. 

Sharing the Waters of the Jordan 

Unified development of the Jordan River sys- 
tem may lead to the irrigation of 125,000 acres 
of land in the valley alone, providing a direct 
livelihood there for over 100,000 more people. 
Jordan power also can be used to establish a num- 
ber of small industrial plants, thereby absorbing 

many more now destitute people in light indus- 
tries and related trades. 

The river and the streams which feed it run 
through Lebanon, Syria, and Israel, as well as 
Jordan. In 1953 the United Nations Relief and 
"Works Agency, interested in providing work 
projects and additional land for refugees, asked 
the American Tennessee Valley Authority to 
draw up a plan for the full development of the 
Jordan's resources. With the active support of 
President Eisenhower, who sent Ambassador Eric 
Johnston into the area, this proposal became the 
basis for negotiations with the four courtries 

Unified development of the Jordan is economi- 
cally feasible as well as humanely necessary. 
Total cost of a TVA-type plan for the entire 
watershed is estimated at about $120 million. 
The increased yields of the valley in Jordan alone 
may easily be worth as much as $40 million a year. 
Once a plan is agreed on, many of the refugees 
can be put to work on Jordan development 
projects. The United Nations, which has already 
allocated an initial sum for development surveys, 
will provide additional funds for construction as 
soon as agreements can be reached. In less than 
3 years after work commences the first families 
can move to their new land. 

Even though the signing of a formal treaty of 
peace between Jordan and Israel may be a still- 
distant hope, it now appears possible to solve the 
problems of Jordan's water needs without such a 
treaty. In any event, the United States will con- 
tinue its efforts toward an equitable sharing of the 
disputed waters and their development for the 
benefit of the peoples concerned. 

Department of State Publication 5907 
Near and Middle Eastern Series 19 

Retained September 1955 


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